Turkish gov't declares war on unemployment

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has prepared a special action plan in the fight against unemployment during its second government term.

Turkish gov't declares war on unemployment

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has prepared a special action plan in the fight against unemployment during its second government term.

The party failed to implement a successful program on the issue in their previous term and was unable to decrease the high unemployment rate despite outstanding performance in other economic fields.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will implement the report, prepared by experts in economy and employment under his orders, in the second term of his party's government. Erdoğan gave hints as to the content of the action plan for unemployment in the government program he made public last Friday. The plan includes simple but effective measures such as using the funds in the Unemployment Insurance Fund to create employment projects and the opening of private employment offices to facilitate the meeting of employers and potential workers.

During the previous term, Erdoğan had ordered Bülent Gedikli, Şaban Dişli, Reha Denemeç and Nazım Ekren, who is now the minister of economy, Manisa deputy and former trade union activist Hüseyin Tanrıverdi and Çorum deputy Agah Kafkas to examine the policies pursued by countries that were successful in decreasing unemployment. During this unpublicized study, the AK Party's economy and employment experts paid visits to 18 countries. They examined how developed and developing countries solved the unemployment problem, and following their study, they presented a report of their findings to Erdoğan. The prime minister included several proposals from this report in the program of the 60th government, signaling that the AK Party will work to solve Turkey's long-standing unemployment problem in its second term.

The senior AK Party executives closely examined the models employed in China, Chile, Brazil, Germany, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. They visited these countries, examining the employment formation projects implemented by the World Bank and seeking to find out whether these same projects could work within Turkey.

Tanrıverdi, speaking to Today's Zaman concerning the action plan, said: "In Turkey, many employers complain about not being able to find enough staff members with the qualities they need while at the same time many qualified people are unable to find jobs."

Tanrıverdi continues, "This constitutes one of the basic elements of the employment problem in Turkey. We will first solve this problem with the projects we have designed. We will facilitate an environment where qualified workers and employers can easily come into contact with each other. We are determined; in its second term, the AK Party will fight against the unemployment problem and solve it to the greatest extent possible."

According to the action plan, the only task given to the state with respect to the solution of Turkey's unemployment problem is to create solutions. The state is no longer regarded as a source of employment, and the state will implement many projects to pave the way for private entrepreneurship in Turkey. The relations between vocational education and the labor market will be reinforced. The Vocational Proficiencies Institute, a newly established organization, will implement several projects to make vocational education more responsive to the demands of the labor market.

First step: skills centers

In vocational education, a flexible system will be introduced that is based not on school type but on program type and which allows for transition from one program to another. Apprenticeship training centers and programs will be modernized. In addition, vocational high schools and institutions of higher education will cooperate with the labor market in organizing their curricula; active participation of business establishments in the determination of training programs will be ensured. Information and communication technologies will be utilized to a much great extent in education, and skills development centers will be established in organized industrial zones.

The structural incompatibility between the education system and the labor market will be eliminated. People will be made more qualified while companies will receive easier access to a qualified labor pool. The Turkish Employment Organization (İŞKUR) will be endowed with the capacity to effectively and extensively implement active labor programs. The government is planning to transfer at least YTL 200 million from the Unemployment Insurance Fund to these projects every year. A significant portion of the money in the Unemployment Insurance Fund will be transferred to employment forming projects through loans and material resources.

Second step: 'Have Your Profession, Your Job Is Ready'

The second step consists of increasing the number of vocational development courses. In line with the demands of employers, the number of vocational development courses, which will guarantee post-training after job acquisition, will be increased throughout the country. People who are unemployed for more than 12 months will be given skills development training along with support in finding jobs. The vocational development projects prepared by universities, nongovernmental organizations, professional chambers and local administrations as well as local entities will be better financed. A labor market information system will be developed that will allow access to current, comprehensive and quality information about the labor market; vocational education programs will be reorganized according to this system.

Projects included in the government program

The Youth Become Businessmen Program targets young people who have graduated from ordinary high schools but cannot enter universities as well as those who have graduated from vocational high schools and higher-level vocational education institutions. This project, included in the 60th government's program, will encourage young people to set up their own businesses. Young people will be given entrepreneurship training after which they will prepare individual business plans; consultancy, financing, marketing, free space allocation and other assistance will be provided to them. Further, Business Development Centers (İŞGEM) will be established in every province, starting in cities with the highest rates of unemployment.

Women's employment participation

The government's employment programs contain special provisions for ensuring women's participation in the employment market. To increase the presence of women in business life, special services such as child care at home and organizing various social activities will be conducted.

In order to ensure that women contribute to the country's economic activity, a comprehensive female entrepreneurship program will be launched in cooperation with nongovernmental organizations. Female entrepreneurs will be given assistance in all areas where they need help, including giving them business ideas. To this end, the General Directorate on the Status and Problems of Women and the Employment and the Social Security Ministry will undertake special projects in the East and Southeast and initiate pilot practices. Small entrepreneurs in these regions will be coordinated by introducing a system similar to the one in China. For example, in a locality where hand weaving is widespread, a small entrepreneur will provide the yarn while another will do the dying, another will do the weaving and finally another will do the marketing.

The monopoly of the Turkish Employment Organization (İŞKUR) on finding jobs for the unemployed will end with the programs developed. The government is planning to transfer a significant part of İŞKUR's duties to the private employment offices that will be established in the new term. Private employment offices will be more effective and widespread and, inspired by offices in European countries, they will also have inspection authorities. They may give periodic personnel provision services and cooperation between İŞKUR and private employment offices will be increased. A significant increase in the number and quality of people who do seasonal work in the tourism sector is expected.

Taxation legislation will be made simpler and several taxes will be removed while others will be lowered in order to minimize tax burdens on employers.

Unemployment: The most difficult challenge

Turkey has been growing at 7 percent on average over the past five years, but its performance in fighting unemployment has not been that spectacular. The weakest grade of the government in the last term was that in unemployment. The rate, which was at 11 percent in 2002, could only be brought down to 9.8 percent as of April 2007. However the unofficial unemployment rate is estimated to be above 20 percent.

According to data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat), Turkey's joblessness rate as of May 2007 was 8.9 percent compared to 8.8 percent during the same period of the previous year. When the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in November 2002, the rate was 9.9 percent, with 2,373,000 people unemployed.

According to TurkStat data, the three-month period from April to June saw the rate of participation in the workforce at 47.9 percent. The unemployment rate in cities was 10.9 percent and 5.8 percent in the rural parts of the country. The rate was 11 percent in January of this year, 11.4 percent in February, 10.4 percent in March and 9.8 percent in April. As of April of this year the number of unemployed in Turkey increased by 50,000, to reach 2,265,000. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed in the same period increased by 449,000 in comparison to the previous year, reaching 23,309,000 people.

A comparison of unemployment rates in May 2002 and May 2007 shows that 740,000 newcomers joined the workforce during the past five years, but the number of employed increased by 980,000 people. In other words, in addition to all of the newcomers finding jobs, 240,000 more were employed in this period. The amount of new jobs created brought down the number of unemployed to 2,450,000 from 2,689,000 people.

In the past five years of AK Party governance, participation in the workforce increased by 1 million people, but at the same time that part of the population older than 15 years of age reached 4 million. Only 740,000 of this young population entered the workforce. The remaining 3,233,000 either did not join the workforce or simply could not. The number of jobseekers who lost hope doubled in the past five years. The figures show that Turkey has created as many jobless people as it has created new jobs.

The number of agricultural workers fell by 40,000 while 489,000 more people were employed in sectors outside of agriculture in May 2007. In this period 27.7 percent of the employed worked in agriculture, 19.1 percent in industry, 5.9 percent in construction and 47.3 percent in the services sector. This is why the government plans to focus on the services sector in solving the problem of unemployment.

According to TurkStat, the rate of unrecorded unemployment is 47.6 percent and the rate of unrecorded unemployment in the agriculture sector rose to 87.6 percent from 87.5 in May last year. The rate of unrecorded unemployment in sectors outside agriculture fell to 32.4 percent from 34.3 percent.

Today's Zaman

Last Mod: 03 Eylül 2007, 12:52
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